WASHINGTON – Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemned two recent Hamas attacks
on Israelis in a speech at the White House Wednesday night.
“We do not want any blood to be shed, one drop of blood, on the part of the Israelis or the Palestinians,” he said, addressing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who was among the leaders to share the dais with him. “We want them to live as neighbors and partners forever. Let us sign an agreement, a final agreement, for peace and put an end to a very long period of struggle forever.”RELATED:
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Hamas shootings Tuesday and Wednesday left four dead and two injured, actions which Abbas said are to be “condemned.”
Netanyahu, who spoke before Abbas in an East Room event proceeding a dinner hosted by US President Barack Obama, said the recent attacks wouldn’t stop Israel from engaging in direct negotiations set to start Thursday.
“I will not let the terrorists block our path to peace,” he said, though he added, “These events underscore once again that peace must be anchored in security.”
Netanyahu also directly addressed Abbas, turning to him from the podium and saying, “President Abbas, you are my partner in peace.”
He tried to assure a skeptical Palestinian public that he was sincere in his desire to forge an agreement.
“I came here today to find a historic compromise,” he declared. “I didn’t come here to find excuses or to make them. I came to find solutions.”
The two leaders shook hands and exchanged warm comments after each other’s remarks, though the tone of the two addresses contrasted sharply.
Where Netanyahu spoke about the desire for peace in broad strokes, while stressing Israel’s need for security, Abbas took a more assertive tone that dwelled more on past injustices and policy changes the Palestinians seek.
“We call on the Israelis to carry out their obligations, including a freeze on settlements activities – which is not setting a precondition but a call to implement an agreed obligation – and to end all the closure and blockade, preventing freedom of movement, including the [Gaza] siege,” he said.
“We want a peace that will correct the historical injustice caused by the nakba
of 1948, and one that brings security to our people and the Israeli people,” he continued, using the Arabic word for “catastrophe” associated with the founding of the State of Israel.
Israel considers the demand for a settlement freeze a precondition and
has long resisted it on those grounds. Netanyahu, after months of
pressure from the United States, finally agreed to a temporary
moratorium on building which is set to expire at the end of the month.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who along with King Abdullah of Jordan
also joined in the East Room addresses and the White House dinner,
echoed Abbas’s words on settlements.
“Settlement activities in the Palestinian territory are contrary to
international law. They will not create rights for Israel, nor are they
going to achieve peace or security for Israel,” he said in Arabic. “It
is, therefore, a priority to completely freeze all these activities
until the entire negotiation process comes to a successful end.”
Mubarak urged Israel to “seize the current opportunity” and “not let it slip through your fingers.”
Abdullah, who spoke after Mubarak, also stressed the possibilities and urgency of the current situation.
“The direct negotiations that will start tomorrow must show results --
and sooner rather than later. Time is not on our side,” he warned.
“There are those on both sides who want us to fail, who will do
everything in their power to disrupt our efforts,” he noted. “This is
why we must prevail. For our failure would be their success in sinking
the region into more instability and wars that will cause further
suffering in our region and beyond.”
Obama also urged the parties to recognize that there is a “moment of
opportunity that must be seized” in a separate statement he delivered
earlier in the Rose Garden following “productive” individual meetings
during the day with each of the four leaders.
But he noted that others needed to step up as well.
”A lot of times I hear from those who insist that this is a top priority
and yet do very little to actually support efforts that could bring
about a Palestinian state,” he said, in comments that seemed aimed at
the Arab world.
At the same time, he stressed that it was the parties themselves that needed to reach an agreement.
“Ultimately the United States cannot impose a solution, and we cannot
want it more than the parties themselves,” he said. “There are enormous
risks involved here for all the parties concerned, but we cannot do it